This week’s $3 million DOTA 2 Shanghai major has been a bit of a disaster. Streams dropping, cameras getting stuck, awkward or non-existent commentary, dead air—it’s been a comedy of errors. On the back of it all, Valve let go of one commentator, James Harding, to a storm of backlash.
Harding has a reputation for being pretty irreverent on air, making him something of a divisive figure. Some fans love him for the way he gives people shit, others think he goes too far. He was a DOTA 2 eSports mainstay up until 2015, but he didn’t appear at The International 2015 or the Frankfurt Major.
Shanghai was his comeback... until it wasn’t. He was let go by Valve after a day and a half of the tournament, which has seen some excellent play from teams involved amidst a backdrop of production woes. Oddly, there wasn’t anything public that people could point to as an “Oh shit” moment that directly led to Harding’s unceremonious canning.
After a day of speculation and outcry, Gabe Newell personally took to Reddit to explain Valve’s point of view. He was, um, perhaps a little peeved:
1) James. We’ve had issues with James at previous events. Some Valve people lobbied to bring him back for Shanghai, feeling that he deserved another chance. That was a mistake. James is an ass, and we won’t be working with him again.
2) As long as we’re firing people, we are also firing the production company that we’ve been working with on the Shanghai Major. They will be replaced, and we hope to get this turned around before the main event.
Damn. That hammer dropped hard.
It’s worth noting that Harding has stated that he’s preparing a statement (oh, English) about his side of the story, so we’ll see what he has to say. Regardless, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be hosting another DOTA 2 major again any time soon.
Update 8:20 PM: Harding posted a brief reply to Newell’s Reddit thread:
“This is why my statement is taking sometime. It seems more personal than professional. So I will respond. Just for the record gabe, I don’t think you are an ass. But I don’t think you are right about me (well maybe you are a bit of an ass for calling me an ass, but let’s find out what others think shall we?). Brb.”
Update 2/27/16 4:15 PM: Harding issued a lengthy statement about his side of the story. In it, he admitted that his style of commentating can be crass, but he also posted a chat transcript in which DOTA 2 lead IceFrog told him to “just be yourself” during the event. So... mixed messages.
“So, if I’m wrong Gabe, and you just fired me because I’m not your cup of tea as a host. That sucks, you fucked up. And now I seem to be paying for it kind of. I dunno. It’s a weird situation to process.”
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